Ageing couple’s health fears as Northern Distributor Road scheme hinders house sale
11:06 02 September 2014
Norfolk homeowners are struggling to sell their properties because of the threat of a £148.5m road scheme.
Case study: Mary Ayers
Mary Ayers, of Taverham, has been trying to sell her home for seven months.
The 68-year-old, who lives alone, put her bungalow on the market in the hopes of downsizing, but believes her attempts to move have been blighted by the proposed NDR.
“I don’t need all the space that this has given me – plus I don’t want to live too near to the new road. It’s going to bring so much traffic and noise,” she said.
Despite initially attracting a string of viewers, Mrs Ayers, a former nurse, hasn’t had any luck.
“A few people have mentioned the NDR and said that they don’t want to be near it – particularly families. I am desperate to sell my house but it’s been an uphill battle – and I’m not even as close as many will be to the road.
“I’m doing my best – but when they hear that the road will be built near me they aren’t interested.”
Families living along the proposed route of the 12-mile Northern Distributor Road say they are unable to move, because potential buyers are discouraged by the prospect of the road being built nearby.
In one case, a couple living near Rackheath have had their home on the market for two years, during which they have only received one offer, which was a third lower than the property’s valuation.
Another woman, in Taverham, has been trying to sell her property for seven months, but has been told by buyers that they are put off by the proposed route.
Great and Little Plumstead Parish Council said that they were aware of people suffering similar problems, and the topic came under the spotlight at a recent meeting of Rackheath Parish Council.
Are you struggling to sell?
The council is offering two ways to help those trying to sell a property affected by the route, by making a payment towards the cost of the house – or buy it outright. But there are strict conditions which must be met:
You must own a property where the whole or part is required for the planned route.
You can serve a blight notice on the highway authority if you have been in continuous occupation for six months and if you can show reasonable attempts to sell - with proof you have been unable to sell or have been offered a substantially reduced price.
If you own a property which is not required for the route but you believe you will be seriously affected, you can ask the county council to purchase your property.
Factors considered include noise levels, diminution in value and any medical conditions made worse by the situation.
Norfolk County Council is obliged to buy homes that are directly affected by the route – under a mechanism known as a “blight notice”. It can also pay for others less directly affected – if certain criteria is met –under something called a “discretionary purchase”.
So far, two homes have been bought under “blight” notices, while negotiations for a third property are underway. The only approach under the discretionary scheme so far has been from Clive and Pat Marshall, whose application was turned down by councillors, as it did not meet the criteria.
Their four-bedroom home, complete with seven lawns and an adjoining paddock, on the outskirts of Rackheath, is around 100 metres from the planned route. The property, which they have run as a bed and breakfast, went on the market in 2012 for £450,000. The only offer since then was for £307,000.
Mrs Marshall, 75, said: “They accepted all the other criteria like health but we failed on the noise level. The estimated noise level was not going to be loud enough.
“It’s not that we don’t like living here and we aren’t moving because of the road, we just can’t keep up with all the land and we just want something simple,” she added.
Mr Marshall, 76, said: “We can’t keep living like this – we both have health issues and are ageing. We are worried, our family is worried.”
Broadland MP Keith Simpson said that he had “every sympathy” with the Marshalls and urged them to get in touch.
Ray Smith, surveyor and partner at Watsons surveyors, said that their case was not isolated, adding: “This is generally what happens when you got a major road being developed through a section of the countryside.”
However, estate agents around the city said they hadn’t experienced any similar cases – with some claiming the proposed road could make selling a home easier.
Norfolk County Council insisted that they were looking at other avenues to help the couple.
John Birchall, a spokesman, said: “We are not unsympathetic and have asked them to keep us informed of any developments in case we are able to help the sale of the property go through. We are still looking to see what can be done to ensure that they can sell their property for an acceptable price.”
• NORTHERN DISTRIBUTOR ROAD FACTFILE
Norfolk County Council want to build the 12-mile road from the A47 at Postwick in the east of the city to the A1067 Fakenham Road to the north-west.
The council says it will improve journey times, stop rat-running and congestion and bring an economic boost.
The £148.5m project was given ‘Programme Entry’ status by the Department for Transport in December 2009.
It is currently going through the planning process and will be examined in detail by the Planning Inspectorate before a recommendation is made to the Secretary of State.